I promised something silly to break up all this serious John le Carré blogging of late, and here it is. I just couldn't resist the opportunity to jump from le Carré to Weng Weng, illustrating the unbelievably wide spectrum of the spy genre! Diminutive Filipino star Weng Weng, for those who don't know, managed to stretch the simple high-concept gag of “a midget James Bond” into possibly as many as five films in the early Eighties. (I reviewed the first one, For Your Height Only, a couple of years ago, here.) I say “possibly” because records of such things are apparently poorly kept in the Philippines, and as far as I can tell only two (maybe three) such movies actually found release in the United States. So nobody seems to be really sure—not even Andrew Leavold, the guy who’s writing his doctoral thesis on Filipino exploitation cinema and seems to be the West’s foremost authority on all things Weng Weng. He penned the actor’s mini biography on the IMDb, and if that’s to be believed, then it’s a biopic waiting to happen! (Or waiting for the right actor; the physical demands of playing a 2' 9" Filipino are fairly specific.) Apparently after the country finally tired of the one-gag film series, the movie roles dried up for Weng Weng, so the general in the Marcos regime who had made him an honorary secret agent years earlier decided to tap the former star to be a real secret agent, sent him to paratrooper school, and used him on actual infiltration missions where his tiny size was an advantage. If that story’s true, I think Weng Weng might be the only franchise spy star to later graduate to actual spying… which is pretty awesome.
|I'll let Weng Weng's extraordinary hairdo remain the elephant in this room|
|Two examples of Weng Weng's signature move|
|Gadgets, Weng Weng-style: a handy pole|
|This pole enables Weng Weng to injure two sets of testicles at once|
• At one point, the bad guys throw a cobra at Weng Weng, and the actor, who usually remains impressively expressionless in any scenario, looks terrified. That sudden fit of acting leads me to believe that the Filipino production team really did toss an actual cobra at their tiny star.
• When a shoeless villain barks orders from the comfort of his luxurious home, it occurred to me that we don’t often see villains hanging around in their socks—much less indulging in maniacal laughter in their socks!
• At one point, Weng Weng’s interpretation of the order to take his time takes the form of kicking back and watching go-go dancers in a club, just like his regularly-sized poverty row spy brethren all over the world.
• People are always mistaking Weng Weng for a child, which is odd, because despite his height, Weng Weng does not look very youthful at all. “Oh, I’m sorry, sir,” exclaims an obsequious brothel proprietor when he realizes his mistake. “I didn’t know you were an adult!” To make up for trying to throw him out, he offers Weng Weng his pick of the girls, and they all swarm the poor munchkin, cooing excitedly. Weng Weng gets the same look on his face that the cobra induced, and then runs away like Short Round fleeing the harem in Temple of Doom.
go take a look at the screengrabs of Weng Weng suspended from a cable in his little jetpack with that same look of cobra terror plastered on his tiny face. It’s easy to think of the poor guy as a human version of the Muppet Beaker, allowing himself to be subjected to stunt upon life-threatening stunt in a constant state of disquiet and agitation—all for the sake of his art.) The Impossible Kid is the one with the mini motorcycle. Yes, it’s a scooter of some sort specially built for someone of Weng Weng’s stature. Or maybe it’s a kids’ toy. Whatever its origin, it’s just fast enough to keep up with the junky trucks the bad guys drive, and those mischievous sound engineers have seen to it that the minuscule vehicle emits a hilarious buzzing noise that makes it sound like a wind-up toy. In this movie’s big stunt (one which really doesn’t compare to the great jetpack flight), Weng Weng jumps over a wide ravine on his pocket crotch rocket. That’s the stunt you’ll remember this film for—and not because it’s pulled off with any particular success.
|One more advantage of being small: fire hydrants make great cover|